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Friday, June 17, 2011

"Light", Chapter 16: Arousal

Click here for a full list of chapters from Marcus T. Anthony's novel Light.

There was someone shaking me. I opened my eyes and felt daylight crash into my brain. It hurt like hell.

“Stupid kid. You shouldn’t drink so much damn beer!”

I squinted, and through the slits between my eyelids I could make out the form of an old man leaning over me. He was carrying a large canvas bag, and from the sounds it made when he moved, I knew he was collecting aluminium cans and plastic bottles.

“Get some clothes on before you die of pneumonia!” He trundled away muttering something about “Kids these days.”

It sure felt as if I’d been drinking – like about two keg’s worth of black Irish beer. My mouth was bone dry, like I hadn’t drunk a drop of water for a month, and I could feel every heartbeat pound through my skull. Even more frighteningly, I noticed that my heart beat was irregular. One moment there were three or four rapid beats, then a pause, then it came back again. I sat up, and grabbed my head with my hands, as if that would make the pain go away. My body was shivering. There was a slight cool breeze blowing in off the ocean, and I was freezing.

My heart skipped a beat again, and a moment of terror descended upon me as the thought passed through my mind that I was about to have a heart attack. That made my heart race even faster as my breath caught in my chest. But the expected explosion of my cardiac matter never came, and I relaxed a little. It looked like I was going to live.

I slowly stood up, steadying myself against the dizziness. I was fascinated to discover that I was wearing only my jeans and was bare foot. Then I noticed that I was standing at the low point of small sand dunes which were covered in thin layers of tall, rough grass.

My shirt. I needed to find my shirt. I looked about me, and could see nothing but sloping dunes, grass and sand. I scrambled around, and eventually found one of my shoes, but not the other; and the shirt was nowhere to be seen. After a few minutes I cursed and hobbled up the dune wearing my one shoe and made my way towards the car park.

My thoughts were more scrambled than a Sunday morning omelet. All I knew is that I had to get back to Edwards Hall. I hobbled up the hill road, heading back towards Scott Street at the top of town, where I knew there was a bus stop. A guy walking his dog passed me, looking at me like I was from Mars. A bit further along two schoolgirls giggled as soon as they saw me. That’s when it dawned on me that it was not socially normal to stumble along in public, shirtless and wearing one shoe.

The 100 bus pulled up, and I clambered on. The driver gave me a “WTF?” stare as I clambered into the vehicle. It was when I fished a couple of coins from my still wet pocket that a vague sense of the events of the previous evening filtered into my consciousness. Scattered thoughts of brilliant lights and a roller coaster ride through some alien dimension momentarily besieged me. But I was having trouble remembering anything specific.

When I drew the coins out of my pocket they were, well, black. I ignored the incongruity, the look of incredulousness on the driver’s face, threw them into the tray and crashed down on a seat.

I was the only person on the bus, but as we moved passed other stops, a few more people got on, and all the funny looks I got began to make me feel just a little self-conscious. Still, I’m sure the radiation victims of the Hiroshima bombing in 1945weren’t overly concerned with social disapproval as they stumbled around half naked at the impact site of the A-bomb. What I am saying is that my brain hurt too much to really give a damn.

A sense of overwhelming fatigue overcame me, and I fell asleep like a cheap drunk…

When I awoke I had no idea where I was. I felt totally lost. I sat up, and everything felt completely alien, like I was in someone else’s bed, and in someone else’s body. But slowly the room about me began to form recognisable patterns. The desk, the poster of Bono, the crappy T-shirts hanging in the open wardrobe. I was in my room.

The scariest thing is that I had absolutely no recollection of how I got there. The last thing I could remember was being on some bus. Now I was lying on my bed wearing only my underwear.

I got up, stumbled a few steps and presented myself as best I could in front of the tall mirror on the wardrobe door. For a moment in the dimly lit room I didn’t notice anything too unusual, except that I looked a bit pale. Then as my eyes adjusted to the light I noticed some small dark freckles on my chest. I flicked on the light, and discovered they were all over my chest and abdomen. I fingered one or two and there was a slight discomfort. They were burn marks.

“What the fuck?”

All I knew was that something weird had happened, and that I had lost any real remembrance of recent events. I scanned my mind, and the last thing I could really remember before the bus was standing on the beach with the storm closing in. Even that was hazy, as if from a dream. But as I looked at the marks on my body I remembered the blackened coins I’d fished from my pockets on the bus. An unfeasible hypothesis was beginning to formulate in my mind. I went straight to my computer.

First, I needed to find out what day it was. Saturday? This was another WTF moment.

 Then I went to a medical diagnosis site, and filled in my symptoms. The list of seven possible diagnoses popped up. The very last hit me like a blow to the face.

I scratched my head and decided to ring the last person I could remember talking to: Amanda.

Pressing fast dial, I waited while for the dial tone.

Click. The line disconnected. I tried again, and it rang just once before the same thing happened. I scratched my head again, and tried one more time. This time she picked up.

“Hi Amanda.”

There was no response.


“What do you want?”

“Just calling to see what’s up. Is something wrong?”

“Is something wrong? Are you fucking crazy or something?”

It was the first time I had ever heard her swear. That was just a little shocking.

“I’m sorry, did I say something?”

Again there was a moment’s silence.

“Look Greg, this is not funny. I think we’d better stop seeing each other. I’ve got exams coming up. It’s a really busy time.’

My head started to spin.

“Sorry, I don’t understand.”

“Greg, you are really fucking weird, do you know that? Is there something wrong with your brain?”

My confusion was now a reign of mental chaos. I didn’t quite know what to say, so I said, “Possibly, but I haven’t been tested lately.”

She laughed. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but I felt an opportunity.

“Sorry if I have been acting a bit strange. Things have been a bit difficult in the last few days.”

“Your Aunt sick again, by any chance?”

This time I laughed. “Yeah. It’s chronic.”

 “So, what happened? Last time I saw you were running into a storm, quite literally.”

I felt it within me. Her energy had shifted. There’s a well known song in Newcastle, called The Newcastle Song. The refrain from the chorus goes, “Don’t you ever let a chance go by.” I decided to heed that advice.

“Will you hate me if I tell the truth?”

“I already hate you.”

“OK, then here it is. I think I was struck by lightning.”


“Either that or I was at a really, really wild party.”

I described the burn marks on my body, the black coins, the loss of memory. Waking up on the beach. Finally I mentioned all the symptoms of a lightning strike I’d uncovered on the web. After I’d finished there was silence again. Finally I added.


“Fucking hell, Greg. If you are right, you are lucky to be alive!”

“Lucky is my middle name. I need to talk. Can I come over?”

Much to my surprise there was no silence. No hesitation. She said yes.

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